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Novak, Yao propel Rockets to eighth straight win

Feb 14, 2008 - 5:45 AM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Steve Novak hit a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to lift the Houston Rockets to a 89-87 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Yao Ming scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for Houston, which blew an 18-point lead but still managed to pull out its eighth straight win.

"I knew if I got it, I would make it," Novak said of his only basket of the game.

"He's a real threat all the time," Houston coach Rick Adelman said. "He's such a pure shooter, if he's in the right spot, he going to get a shot."

Ron Artest led the Kings' rally by scoring 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. Artest's huge effort helped Sacramento complete a 26-7 run and take a 87-86 late in the game.

"I guess we picked it up defensively," Artest said of the comeback. "That's the main reason (we rallied was) we started knocking down shots and that changed the momentum. We came back and it was a must win for us and we lost. That hurts a lot."

Artest stole pass from Tracy McGrady and put Sacramento up 89-87 on a jumper with 24 seconds left, causing Houston to call a timeout.

McGrady, who scored just 10 points, then set up the biggest play of the game.

The 6-8 swingman drove the lane and kicked the ball out to Novak at the top of the key. Novak, who played just seven minutes, drilled a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining.

"I wanted to go to the basket," McGrady said. "Once I got in the paint, I knew everybody would come in. I saw Novak out of the corner of my eye and saw enough that he was open."

"Tracy's always had a ton of confidence in me," said Novak, who played sparingly as a rookie last season, and has spent time this season in the D-League. "Playing with a guy like Tracy is an honor.

Brad Miller's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer was well off the mark, giving the Rockets their 12th win in the last 13 games.

The Rockets seemed to have the game in hand as they led, 52-39, at the break and by double digits the entire third quarter.

Houston took a 79-61 lead into the final period, but it shot just 4-of-14 in the fourth quarter to allow the Kings to claw their way back into the game.

Sacramento, which has lost three straight games, opened the final quarter with a 15-1 run.

"We just got stagnant and missed so many shots," Adelman said. "We were getting the opportunities. We just didn't knock them down. They were aggressive defensively."

Sacramento trailed 86-79 with 3 1/2 minutes to play when Artest scored eight straight points, hitting on drives and fallaways, to put the Kings on top at 87-86 with 24 seconds left.

"Ron did a great job offensively and defensively," Sacramento coach Reggie Theus said.

"He was terrific. He played against a great basketball player (McGrady) and did an excellent defensive job on him. That's one of the reasons (Artest) is one of the 10 best players in this league."

Rafer Alston scored 23 points and added seven assists for the Rockets, who shot just 40 percent (33-of-81) from the floor.

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